What would you do if you had two homeless people living inside your gas cupboard?

What would you do if you had two homeless people living in your gas cupboard? 

Stepping outside of my front door this morning, I was greeted by a shiny Maserati sparkling in the early morning light.  As I drifted off, wondering which “new Brixton” resident was trying to muscle in on parking this time, the stench of rotting food and sweat dragged me back to reality.

It was the two men in their early twenties who are living in the external gas cupboard infront of our house.  It sounds like fiction, but this isn’t Harry Potter. 

It’s the daily co-habiting extremes of New Brixton…  New Peckham – Wilesdon    -Walthamstow.  New London.  

Many articles talk of the social cleansing of London: but neglect to mention those left behind or over looked.   This is what the growing disparities between rich and poor looks and smells like when you live in it.  

Ignoring the mice, rotting food, urine filled plastic bottles and beer cans – the stench will tell you that the two men live in squalor.  A lifestyle a million miles away from the owner’s of the car worth in the region of £60,000 which is parked less than 1 metre away from the makeshift bed of the homeless men. 

Although I’ve never been inside the cupboard, I know that it mirrors that of the one inside our home.  Maximum, 150cm wide possibly 300cm long.  Not big enough for the discarded mattress that they managed to fit in there, let alone two grown men.  One person’s closet is another person’s home.  Literally.  Again the disparities of London.  

But if only it was just a financial disparity.  When researching how to help the two men,  I stumbled across a homeless forum.  Battling opinions greeted me.   A homeless person was either seen as a victim or villian.

 “I’d just call the police and your building management company. The doorway is almost certainly private property.”

“I wouldn’t even feel bad. If he is sleeping in a doorway (of all places) he is knowingly antagonising the building’s occupants. My guess is that he is hoping for someone to give him a big bag of charity beddings and food (like has been suggested in this thread many times now), in exchange for leaving. DO NOT GIVE HIM ANYTHING. He will just move to another building. Contact a charity for him if you feel bad – but don’t enable what he is doing either.”

 The lack of empathy was astounding.   It seemed to contradict the public outcry condemning poor doors, homeless spikes and other designs aiming to segregate poor and wealthy residents in new housing developments across London.  I remember reading articles heralding “hipsters”* turning anti homeless spikes into libraries with comfy seating.

Hoorah for Hipsters!

But where did the “hipsters” involved actually live?  Would they have made such a stand on their own door step?

Have you ever walked into a “hipster” bar as a non-hipster? The inconvenience your presence causes stabs at your dignity almost as deeply as the bill for buzz word bar food hits your wallet.  But why does the presence of some make others feel so uncomfortable?  Because it is a reminder of the other side of London.

The side of London that is replaced every time a new luxury apartment development is built on hardcore made of the social housing which once stood on the same spot.  If you have purchased a new “luxury apartment” in inner London recently, it is very likely that your new pad displaced a low income family.   It is an uncomfortable truth.  A truth which taints the aspirational image sold with the luxury apartment purchase.  A truth preferably ignored and forgotten by wealthy residents and developers alike.

How would you feel if a homeless person slept in your door way?

BH xx



 *After researching the piece further I discovered the “hipsters” were actually a group of artists, who have also been priced out of housing in London.  So not actual “hipsters”but people who face and understand the financial pressures of housing in London.

14 responses to “What would you do if you had two homeless people living inside your gas cupboard?”

  1. I enjoyed your thoughtful essay. Tough questions about a tough issue. I’d like to think I would offer food and blankets and send them to a shelter if there was one around. It’s hard to know for sure.

    1. Thank you! As a fellow Suze commented, we are all one pay cheque or medical bill away from being homeless. Such a sobering thought but also perfect at reminding us that we are all human.

  2. I really object to the intensifying anti-homeless trend in cities around the Western world. It is needlessly cruel. I am moved by the efforts in the States to end homelessness by providing housing and support, which it turns out is cheaper than running shelters and other homeless programs.

    But, what to do when it turns up on your doorstep? Lending a hand and helping out somehow… but how far do you go? For the individual it’s hard to determine. But, for our society, we need a more thorough treatment of the problem.

    1. I agree! I think the problem with London is that the property market is so inflated that local and central government are focused on making as much (private) profit as possible from every cm2 rather than build a better society for all.

  3. I had a homeless person sleeping in my shed…when I found him I brought him into the house, gave him new clothes, had him shower and change while I fixed him breakfast. I then let him sleep on the sofa until he found a job and a home (apartment) he could afford. His name is Dave and after ten years he is still in his own apartment and working two jobs. And I wonder why more people do not invite other homeless into shelter and help them get a leg up? We are all just a paycheck or a hospital bill away from homelessness.

    1. Reading your comment has actually made me emotional. Thank you so much for sharing your experience. You have really inspired me to ask myself if I am doing all that I can. Your last sentence is a great reminder which we too quickly forget at the this sign of comfort! Thank you!

  4. […] Quite simply the question is: What would you do if you had two homeless people living in your gas cupboard?  This post shows up the sad realities of city life, and the terrible difficult situations some […]

  5. As a homeless person living in Denver, many homeless people have been displaced through gentrification. I applaud that you see what is happening and comment on it. I don’t know how things are in London, but here the cost of an apartment is way more than most people can afford.

    Thank you for your comments.


    1. Thank you. Sadly the prices in London are just as extortionate 0 bedroom flats (I hate calling them studio flats as it gives such a false impression) in region of £200,000. Young families don’t stand the chance of getting on the property ladder…

      1. I feel like the whole world is supporting a select few at the expense of the common man. How do countries like the US and London expect to prosper as nations when their citizens can’t afford to support themselves? So much money is spent on Social services, it doesn’t have to be this way. Thanks for understanding.


  6. Oh dear! I’ve visited London a dozen or more times. Now I’m realizing no matter how much I walked the neighborhoods (tourist and non), I saw only what exists on the outside. There’s much more that is never shown. Thankfully, blogs like yours house subject matter that needs more discussion. You point at the real issues, and uncover the disparities that are so real for so many impoverished souls. What would I do if I found homeless people living in close proximity to me? I would most likely open a dialogue with them, and see if I could be of service in some way. That’s what I do in the volunteer section here in the US. Food for further Thought across the pond, and since much is hiding in plain sight…the world!

  7. This is painful to read, but I applaud you for speaking up and speaking out on this difficult, challenging subject. Before I moved to a rather rural area, I lived in a large city, where homelessness was very obvious and always present, and I was always broken over what to do about it. My silence and inaction feels like complacency and propagation of the problem. As a Christian, I can’t help but think of the parable of the rich man who walked passed the beggar Lazarus at his doorway everyday and did nothing to help him. I give money to charities that serve the poor, but when I come face to face with homelessness and poverty, I never know what to do.

    1. To a certain extent we become numb to it. It almost feels overwhelming, who do you help how etc. If it hadn’t been literally on my door step, I would have continued in the same way.

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